College Visits- a Family Affair

By GalTime's College Coach Suzanne Shaffer

College Visits College Visits preparing for the college visit

College visits have become more important today than they ever were in the past. Competition for that coveted admission spot and the competitiveness of the colleges vying for students makes the college visit a key factor in a student's decision and a college's recruiting efforts.

College visits are the "bread and butter" of the admissions process and if you have a college-bound tween or teen, it's time to get into the game.

When should you visit?
Many families use summer or spring vacations to take a walk around a college campus. One family I know posts a list of all their college visits as a family.

If there is a tween in your family, this is a great time to expose them to the college culture and begin the conversation about their future. It doesn't need to be a college they are considering; at this point any campus will do.

Related: Top 10 Questions Parents Ask About College

The goal is to get the family involved and start the process.
If you have a teenager in high school, use these visits to help them create a list of "must haves" and "don't likes" when they do get serious about visiting the colleges on their short list.

Once your student gets serious, the visits should be during fall or spring while classes are in session.

What should you accomplish during the visit?
During the preliminary visits you and your student should take a personal tour around the campus. You will be surprised at the things your student notices and determines he/she likes or doesn't like.

You don't need to take a guided tour until your teen is a junior or senior in high school. Most students begin narrowing down the list during the spring of their junior year. In the fall, they visit or revisit the colleges who are on their list of contenders.

On these visits your student should ask questions and make contact with other students.

How does the visit contribute to the admissions process?
As far as the colleges are concerned, it's their time to shine. You will get the best view of the campus from the tour guide, including a visit to the cleanest dorm room. It's also their opportunity to get to know your student.

Related: Dorm Room Decorating on a Dime

As far as your student is concerned, it's their chance to dig deeper into the college culture and make an impression on the admissions office.

Colleges keep track of who visits and who expresses genuine interest in attending. Make appointments with the admissions office and the financial aid office before the visit; ask questions and act interested.

How much should parents be involved?
Since you'll be making the travel plans, use Smart College Visit to help you locate the best hotels and choose ones within close proximity of the college. If you've ever visited a campus with a teen, you know the visits are highly stressful. Teenagers are moody, opinionated and irrational.

They might fall in love with a college based on the buildings or hate the college based on something as simple as the way other students are dressed. Parents need to be understanding and patient during the process.

It's best to keep your opinion to yourself and let your student do the talking before, during and after the visit. Be a good listener and guide them when asked but don't pressure them.

College visits are rising to the top of the college decision-making process. Put them on your list when starting the process; even as early as junior high.

Use them as a tool for you and your family to bond, share experiences and guide your teen in their college choices. Make it a point to visit every college on your teen's final list. Those visits could seal the deal!

What have been your experiences with college visits so far?

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